• Science standards debate fills S.F. hall to capacity

    SANTA FE – Hundreds appeared Monday in Santa Fe for the single public hearing scheduled to comment on controversial science standards proposed by the state’s Public Education Department.
    Throughout the morning, no one spoke in favor of PED’s proposal, many saying the department’s rewritten version of the national Next Generation Science Standards, known as Next Gen, were politically motivated.
    The hearing was overseen by Kimberly Ulibarri, a PED hearing officer. Monday was the last day to submit comments.
    Two Los Alamos schools officials, Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus and board member Andrea Cunningham, had signed up to speak, but due to a lengthy interruption from a false fire alarm and problems managing the hearing’s sign-in sheets, the two didn’t speak. A second board member was called on to speak.
    Next Gen science standards were developed in 2013 by a consortium of 26 states, including people in New Mexico, and other organizations, such as National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Research Council.
    Changes made at PED include replacing references to climate change with “temperature fluctuations,” removes mention of the earth’s age as 4.8 billion years, and tweaks instruction on evolution.

  • Board OKs Barranca Elementary $14.8 million budget for construction

    Preliminary plans for renovation and additions at Barranca Elementary received approval of an estimated construction budget of $14.8 million by the Los Alamos Public School board on Tuesday.
    The project includes a new two-story classroom building for first through sixth grades, a cafeteria, administrative offices and a vestibule for two wings. The plan also calls for demolition of three wings of the current structure.
    The board approved the estimated budget, but the decision also entails putting off renovations of the field house and other structures at the football stadium until more funding is available.
    Initial estimates have risen from $12.7 million discussed last month with board members and FBT Architects to the current estimate, which includes furnishings and fixtures, said Assistant Superintendent Lisa Montoya, who is in charge of finance and operations.
    The project’s cost would come out of bond funds and state funding. 

  • Education secretary visits Los Alamos

    New Mexico has a chance to be among those in the forefront to update science standards for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, said the secretary of the Public Education Department during a visit to Los Alamos on Tuesday.
    Adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards, also known as Next Gen, would put New Mexico among 19 states to embrace new science instructional requirements and updated content, said Cabinet Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski.
    He was in town to congratulate schools in Los Alamos for being among 121 schools statewide earning the “A” designation.
    PED has taken fire – particularly from the Los Alamos school board, local scientists and engineers and students – for modifications proposed to Next Gen, which includes switching out content on the human causes of “climate change,” for “temperature fluctuations,” and other modifications. Most recently the agency was the target of a letter signed by 61 scientists and engineers, Fellows of Los Alamos National Laboratory, published as an advertisement on Monday.
    The letter said the proposed modifications had “no scientific rationale,” and would tarnish the state’s reputation.
    Ruszkowski expects more discussions throughout this week, culminating in a hearing in Santa Fe on Monday.

  • Aspen School gets $3,000 grant

    Students at Aspen Elementary School got an early holiday gift when Wells Fargo Inc. and the Golden Apple Foundation announced the school won a $3,000 grant through the organizations’ “Teacher Partnership” program.
    According to Aspen Elementary School Principal Kathryn Vandenkieboom, Aspen third-grade teacher Alisa Rolfe led the quest to win the grant, and it will be money well spent.
    The school has earmarked the grant for some special reading kits that will help students in grades one through three catch up on their reading skills.
    “These are for when a kid isn’t quite at grade level,” said Vandenkieboom. “The instruction that comes along with this kit is very targeted. You know exactly what part of reading the student is having a hard time with, it might be fluency, it might be comprehension. This kit helps target that instruction.”
    Called Fountas & Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI), the reading kits have been very beneficial to the school’s students, said Vandenkieboom, who became aware of the kits through recommendations from the teachers. With the grant, as well as help from a $1,500 contribution from the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation, the school will be able to purchase a kit for the third grade.

  • 'Reach' helps students cope

    For many high school students, high school is a fun and exciting time. Often, that time is marked with achievement, self-discovery and coming into one’s own.
    Unfortunately students also discover that those good things sometimes don’t happen without some rejection, failure and disappointments along the way.
    And some of those students become so overwhelmed by that they take their own lives.
    In the past three years, Los Alamos High School and the community at large has lost at least three students to suicide and those same years are marked with many unsuccessful attempts, as well.
    In response, there’s now a program called “Reach Toward Not Away.”
    Reach Toward Not Away was started last year by then Los Alamos High School senior Sophan Kellogg.
    Formed in the wake of the suicides by two Los Alamos seniors, the aim of RTNA was to extend an ever-present lifeline to students needing help getting through a difficult situation. The outreach program accomplished this through specialized apps, pledge drives, phone numbers, and other means of outreach and support.

  • LAPS ranked best school district in state

    This afternoon, Los Alamos Public Schools announced it had been named the top public school district in New Mexico by the U.S. Department of Education.

    Ratings, on a scale of 1-100, were taken from the Education department's Smart Ratings System. Los Alamos scored a 94 on the scale.

    According to the announcement, ratings wre based on math and reading proficiency, state assessment tests and other factors, such as student-teacher ratio.

    Los Alamos was ranked 14th among the top school districts in the nation with its score.

  • Game and parade are on Friday

    It is Homecoming week around Los Alamos High School this week.
    Celebrations will be capped off by the Homecoming football game scheduled for Friday night. The Los Alamos Hilltoppers will take on the Moriarty Pintos at Sullivan Field. Game time is 7 p.m.
    Friday’s game will be preceded by the annual Homecoming parade on Central Avenue. The parade will be at 2:30 p.m.
    To accommodate the parade, Los Alamos Public Schools will be dismissed early. Elementary schools will dismiss at noon Friday, Los Alamos Middle School will dismiss at 12:45 p.m. and Los Alamos High School at 1 p.m.

  • Judge forces issue on N.M. teacher evals

    SANTA FE — On Thursday, Santa Fe First Judicial District Court Judge David Thomson put the fight between unions and the New Mexico Public Education Department’s over the teacher evaluation process on a very fast track.
    In February, the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico, the Albuquerque Federation of Teachers and several individuals filed a lawsuit against the New Mexico Public Education Department and the New Mexico Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera.
    The plaintiffs called the new teacher evaluation process “flawed” and a violation of a teacher’s constitutional rights.
    A request for a preliminary injunction was filed three months later by the plaintiffs in an effort to halt the evaluation process, saying that it was already doing “irreparable harm” to thousands of teachers across New Mexico.
    Thursday, Thomson heard from both sides on why he should, or should not, file a preliminary injunction.

  • Music rooms at LAHS need TLC

    If you’re a longtime Los Alamos resident and you happen to revisit the high school’s “music wing,” where all the music classes take place, chances are you’d instantly recognize it.
    That’s because according to some of the faculty, not much has changed there in the past 60 years.
    As the Los Alamos School Board makes preparations to bond for more school reconstruction projects, members from the Los Alamos High School’s music faculty reminded the board of that.
    The high school was the first school Los Alamos residents approved for reconstruction, which started in 2009.
    However one section of the school, where most of the school’s bands, symphonies and choral groups are headquartered, along with the group’s equipment, was skipped for reconstruction for a later time.
    Jason Rutledge, the high school’s choir director came to a recent board meeting to remind the board that that time has come.
    He told the board that problems caused by 60 years of wear and tear, along with a growing student population, have over have only gotten worse. He told the board the entire wing should be included for funding when it comes time for the district’s next general obligation bond vote.

  • Bluecoat system approved for LAPS

    At a recent meeting, the Los Alamos School Board was reminded once again that Los Alamos is not just another small town in New Mexico.
    Unlike other towns, it’s also home to a historically famous, top-secret facility focused on nuclear weapons design and research.
    As a result, statistically, there’s more of a chance that Los Alamos employees, as well as members of their own families, can and do become targets of computer hacks and breaches.
    At the meeting, district officials asked the board to sign a contract for a new “content filtering system” the district wants to purchase, a system that will hopefully keep students’ school online activities safe, private and secure while they are at school.
    According to the district’s Chief Operations Officer, Joanie Ahlers, it was time to make the switch to a more powerful system.
    “Just because our name is Los Alamos Public Schools, we do receive a large number of outside attacks, including those from foreign countries. We felt that from a security standpoint and considering who the parents are to some of our students, we felt compelled to choose an appliance that can do a number of advanced things than just be a basic filter,” she said to the board.